Economic Cornerstone, a small, yet aggressive NYC-based 501.c.4 not-for-profit corporation ensuring minority programs deliver on their promise, recently launched a class-action lawsuit against the NYNJ Port Authority. The suit alleges that the Port Authority did not adhere to the affirmative action requirements that were a precondition to accepting federal funds. The suit claims the Port Authority deprived minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) and their workers the employment opportunities made possible through paid “on-the-job” training programs which would have economically elevated them into the ranks of America’s middle class.
“The nation’s largest public works projects are situated either in or around clusters of disadvantaged communities,” said Director of Economic Cornerstone and Class Representative, Carl Evans. “The Port Authority agreed to meet disadvantaged hiring obligations when they accepted money from the federal government and they have failed.”
MWBEs are the natural employers of minority populations residing in disenfranchised communities and when MWBEs are excluded from large scale participation on Port Authority projects, these disenfranchised communities continue to suffer from the social ills of poverty, unemployment, reliance on public support and skills deficits. Economic Cornerstone presented maps showing where the monies were spent in relation to the disadvantaged communities as evidence of the outright failure of the Port Authority’s implementation efforts. Links to these maps are below.
Maps Show Poverty Next to Nation’s Largest Public Work Projects
Geographic Information Systems software technology, census data and other metrics uncover unemployed, unskilled, poor and disenfranchised communities surrounding public works projects for which the Port Authority has accept federal grants.
“Large scale development projects come to our communities, but instead of utilizing local workers, workers are brought it from as far away as Buffalo. Local minorities are forced to watch from the sidelines,” said Reverend Reginald Benjamin, a pastor and director of the Able Bodied Believers Association in Nassau County, which works to bring skills and jobs to disadvantaged communities. Benjamin has partnered with Economic Cornerstone.
Conspicuous on the maps, presented by Economic Cornerstone, is the proximity of the $3.5 billion La Guardia Airport project, the $296 million JFK Airport renovation and the $2.7 billion new World Trade Center transportation hub. In addition, pockets of disenfranchisement surround Newark-Liberty International Airport, another Port Authority site.
“Legislation was intended to help disenfranchised communities learn skills that would benefit them for a lifetime. The goal is to spend money so skills are acquired and careers are created,” said Evans. “Sadly this has not happened.”
Suit seeks to withhold Federal Funding to Port Authority
With this class action suit, Economic Cornerstone seeks to withhold federal funding from the Port Authority until it implements corrective policies.
“We expect that the Port Authority will claim they have statistics that prove they are in compliance. But after decades of being entrusted with taxpayer monies earmarked to create a minority workforce, the maps we created, using US government census data, proves their statistics are meaningless,” said Evans.
See the maps which evidence the disparate impact on minority communities:
- Exhibit 1 Minority Population displays New York City census tracts in which the minority population is greater than 50 percent of the general population and this population’s proximity to three major PANYNJ sites. Those census tracts containing a minority population greater than 90 percent are represented by the darkest areas. In the census tracts with a minority population in excess of 90 percent, the per capita income in 2014 was $16,477.
- Exhibit 2 Low Mod Population Percent displays New York City census tracts in which more than 50 percent of the population is considered low or moderate income according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The map also shows the proximity of the low or moderate income areas to three major PANYNJ projects. In 2014, 24% (about 390,000 households) of the darkened census tracts had household incomes of $15,000 or less.
- Exhibit 3 Low Mod Pop Black/Hispanic Families displays (in black) New York City census tracts in which 50 to 100 percent of the general population is defined by HUD as Low-Moderate income and this population’s proximity to three major PANYNJ projects. The census tracts in which black and Hispanic families with incomes less than $40,000 are represented by the hatch areas. In census tracts containing 50 percent or more Low Moderate income persons, the per capita income was $18,589 in 2014. This map also shows that black and Hispanic families have low income even in areas that are not more than 50% low-moderate income overall. Thus, regardless of where they live, these minority populations are likely to have income challenges.
- Exhibit 4 Unemployment” displays New York City census tracts in which the unemployment rate is greater than the city average and their proximity to three major PANYNJ projects. Census tracts in which the unemployment rate ranges from 10 to 23 percent are represented by the darkest areas. In 2014 the per capita income in the darkest census tracts was $18,017.
- Exhibit 5 Education No College displays New York City census tracts in which the population with no college education is above average as well as the density of the population age 25 and older that has no college education. The map also shows this population’s proximity to three major PANYNJ projects. Census tracts with a higher densities of the non-college educated population are represented by the darkest areas. In the darkest census tracts the per capita income in 2014 was $17,487.
- Exhibit 6 Poverty Level displays New York City census tracts in which an above average number of people live below the poverty level and their proximity to three major PANYNJ projects. Census tracts in which more than 50 percent of the population are below the poverty level are represented by the darkest areas. In the darkest census tracts the per capita income in 2014 was $9,507.
- Exhibit 7 Public Assistance displays New York City census tracts in which a greater than average (3.9%) number of households are on public assistance and these households’ proximity to three major PANYNJ projects. Those census tracts containing 10 to 27 percent of households on public assistance are represented by the darkest areas. The national average of households on public assistance is only 1.76 percent. The per capita income in the darkest census tracts was $12,771 in 2014. There are 41,048 households on public assistance in this highest group and 44,713 households in the 4% – 9.9% group.
- Exhibit 8 Black Families Low Income displays New York City census tracts in which more than 28 percent of Black Families earn less than $40,000 and this population’s proximity to three major PANYNJ projects. The per capita income in those census tracts that contain 28 to 74 percent of Black families earning less than $40,000 was $22,188.
- Exhibit 9 Hispanic Families Low Income displays New York City census tracts in which an above average percentage of Hispanic families are Hispanic families earning less than $40,000 and their proximity to three major PANYNJ projects. In darkest areas, where 50 percent of Hispanic families are low income, their per capita income was $22,182 in 2014.
More Background Materials available at http://economiccornerstone.com/class-action/